Active Learning: Special FLTC Recap

The Special FLTC Meeting on Thursday 12th October, open to all staff in the faculty, explored our big blue sky ideas for active learning in the curriculum:

Mentimeter tool: word cloud question type


We drew inspiration from PVC L&T’s Learning for the Future:

Key components of active learning outlined in MQ’s Learning For The Future


What we know: benefits

We discussed the positive impact on student learning:

and staff teaching practices:

  • high degree of freedom and creativity
  • opens up so many possibilities
  • doesn’t haven’t to be overly complicated
  • simple but effective strategies

Our experiments: testing the water

We revisited:

When it comes to active learning, there is no ‘one size fits all’, so we propose to take an approach of multiplicity, diversity and inclusivity.

Some #inspo:

In full #bigbluesky mode, we showcased:

1. Peer Instruction

We took inspiration from the peer instruction method pioneered by Eric Mazur at Harvard university – see also video (5:02):

Peer Instruction reference guide (via University of Queensland)


2. Student Peer Assessment

We recalled our Feedback Feedforward workshop where we explored Harland et al. (2016)‘s model of a student peer review and marking process – including a rebuttal(!) phase:

Example student peer review process featuring a rebuttal phase!

The study reported that the process led to:

  • better understanding of the assessment criteria
  • re-examination of their own work
  • motivation to access new primary literature before commenting
  • improved quality of thought in both reviewer and reviewee
  • new perspectives on domain literature.

We invited Nick Wilson, Department of Linguistics, to share his recent LING219 experience with a learner (group) generated digital media task (i.e. video assessment) paired with peer review using the Peergrade tool. Stay tuned for more on this!

3. ‘Wicked’ Problems

And we rounded out our inspiration with ‘wicked’ problems (Markauskaite & Goodyear, 2017) – bringing real-world, authentic, ill-structured problems into the curriculum (vs. ‘tame’, defined, single-solution problems) through:

(i) Team-Based Learning

We showcased the InteDashboard tool, used by our colleagues in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences – and affectionately referred to as Totally Brilliant Learning…man – and the team-based learning approach developed by the Duke Medical School:

which involves:

  • pre-class work
  • an individual quiz using points weighting
  • a team quiz (one answer only)
  • identify what you still don’t understand
  • clarification duties are assigned to other groups

We also recognised examples of current practice in our local community:

(ii) Students as teachers

Tracy Worthington, Department of Educational Studies, using walking galleries:

Walking Galleries with education students. Follow Tracy Worthington on Twitter to learn more: @aussietaw


(iii) Students as researchers

And Bianca De Witt and David Kaplan, Department of Cognitive Sciences, using a research-driven approach with the aide of the Emotiv EPOC+ system:

We concluded with some cross-department brainstorming about project ideas for the future.

And now, you’re all caught up on active learning.

Kill the lecture

Warning: controversial proposition

I want to rethink how we talk about face to face learning at Macquarie.

For years research has been telling us that the lecture, sage-on-the-stage is out, guide-on-the-side is in. Designed by Freepik

There’s many a scholarly article addressing the effectiveness of lectures. We are always asking how to increase student engagement, how to address falling lecture attendance?

I don’t have the answer but I want to ask, why are we still talking about lectures? Why are we still timetabling lectures? If they don’t work, why are we still thinking in terms of the lecture? Let’s scrap the term! Let’s not use it anymore!

When I say lecture, what comes to mind?
If you said something other than powerpoint, lecture theatre, talking, rows of students, well done. My point is that ‘lecture’ is synonymous with a type of passive learning. By still referring to lectures, we are effectively (perhaps subliminally) supporting lectures as an effective strategy despite the evidence.


I don’t have a term for it yet. Mitch has poo-poohed Learning Time but I’m not letting the lack of a term stop me from trying to spread the idea.

If you didn’t have to have a lecture (or even a tutorial) but were able to decide the most effective format, what would you do?  You have x amount of contact hours to use in any way you see as the best fit for your unit….  What would you do?  What would you need that you don’t have now?

Rebecca’s Recommended Read: AI and the future of education

The Future of Education: How A.I. and Immersive Tech Will Reshape Learning Forever

This article is a great read!  Let’s start with this quote:

Contemporary learning is still very much archaic.

Do you agree or disagree?  Does it make you fired up?

Let’s keep going…

The article starts by referencing schooling rather than higher ed but it’s still applicable and relevant to HE, so stick with it.  Asserting the key to the future of education is personalized learningexperiential learning and mastery-based learning with the aid of artificial intelligence and immersive technology, this piece reaffirms that we are living in exciting times (not just) in education.  We’re super-close to that sweet spot, of cool, useful technology while becoming increasingly user-friendly.

At a 21 minute read, this is an inspiring and confronting read.   Read the article via Medium.  It could be the launch of an interesting debate!

Digi Lab at Digifest 2016 ©Jisc and Matt Lincoln - design overlay, iD Factory CC BY-NC-ND

Get interactive with VoiceThread!

VoiceThread, it’s easy, engaging and pedagogically versatile! 
[ If you’ve got no idea what I’m talking about, catch up here: #edtech spotlight overview.]

Here’s a list of upcoming webinars on VoiceThread.  Why not have a look and see whether it’s something you might want to try for Session 3 or even Session 1, 2018 (it’s never too early to start planning! ).
Insider tip: You can register for the session, be emailed a link to the recording and watch at your own leisure!

Screenshot of VoiceThread of an x-ray of a human hand
Example: X-ray image for students to label or discuss pathology

Upcoming Webinars

VoiceThread Basics 3 – Moderating Comments, Private and Threaded Replies, and Copying
In our third workshop in the series, participants will learn how to use comment moderation to formatively assess student work, give private feedback, use threaded commenting, and copy VoiceThreads for use with multiple groups.

Tuesday, Oct 31, 2017, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Register online

*One for our Educational Studies colleagues:

K-12 Language Arts with VoiceThread
In this workshop, our guest facilitators Mia Styles and Mary Ellen Davies will showcase a variety of VoiceThreads they have created to engage students in literature and poetry activities. Learn about their global read-alouds, book talks, poetry discussions, and more!

Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Register online

Annotate with VoiceThread

Quick Overview

Watch the tutorial videos on the VoiceThread YouTube channel, including:

Recent Webinar Recordings

  • Basics 1 – upload, comment, share (49:54)
  • Basics 2 – groups and secure sharing (56:05)
  • Basics 3 – moderating comments, private and threaded replies and copying (43:41)
  • Advanced Skills (47:14)
Import to VoiceThread from a range of content libraries

How do I set it up?

At present, only faculty Learning Designers can create VoiceThread links in your iLearn unit.

Contact Alex, Bec & Bev:

More MQ Examples?

Check out the fruitful experiments and interactive applications by the Department of International Studies, Faculty of Arts:

(i) Visit the Faculty of Arts Toolbox iLearn unit

(ii) Click on the self-enrol button at the bottom of the list of convenors

(iii) Scroll down to Topic 12 ‘Communication and Collaboration’

(iv) Select the VoiceThread entitled ‘Copy of International Studies Presents – example uses from S1 2017

Getting s#%& done: The Google Snippets method

Earlier this year the Faculty of Human Sciences Learning Collective began to implement Google Snippets to increase productivity, communications and culture. We may be a small team but we do a lot of work!

This is a short story of how we customised it for our context and how it could even be utilised for learning!

In a nutshell…

No more unproductive meetings. Everyone is empowered to be a productive, flexible and autonomous worker while the team is kept aligned and working in sync.

Google Snippets 1.0

The Process

Step 1

On Monday morning you email:

  • a list of your accomplishments (what you did last week)
  • identify your current objectives (what you plan to do this week).

After some experimentation, we collectively decided to keep to three (3) dot points under each heading – it’s not a complete list of everything you did, but the strategic highlights:

An example snippet

Step 2

This list is then collated and shared publicly internally on Tuesday. Everyone in the team can see the collective ‘done’ and ‘doing’ list.

Our trial period led us to find that the weekly team meeting was now a bit redundant. We use snippets weekly and meet face-to-face officially once a month.

Step 3

Also on Tuesday, teammates share gratitude, give feedback, make connections and start conversations. Recognition is no longer bound to the manager in the command-and-control-management framework.

We found in our experience that feedback, connections and exchanges were followed up in person (because we work on the same floor). That said, some of us are still seeking the ‘accomplishment unicorn’… :

Google Snippets 2.0

The Reason

Snippets are a single, high-signal place for information that makes it far easier to:

  • keep everyone in the loop
  • make everyone accountable
  • help make connections
  • celebrate individual accomplishments

Everything is transparent.

It gives individuals a weekly 10-15 minute period to reflect on our own progress (and those of our team) and determine our focus for the next week.

Teammates can visibly see how peers spend their time, follow up on connections, and give appreciation. While the manager not only contributes but simultaneously gets a bird’s eye overview, and can identify internal or external roadblocks.

The Impact


  • are minimally disruptive to employee flow
  • are asynchronous
  • require no face time

And, most importantly, it allows individuals to progress towards a meaningful goal – the #1 motivator for employees at work!

This is probably the sixth reason why Rebecca loves her job …

Snippets in Learning 

Here are just a few applications:

  • to share student productivity habits:
    an iLearn Discussion Forum in first year unit
  • to monitor group assignment contributions:
    an iLearn Dialogue between team members
  • to communication project progress:
    a capstone, honours, MRes, PhD candidate with their supervisor(s)

Read more about snippets via I Done This Blog – that’s not a typo!

Catch up with Mary Ryan

And Gladly catches up with Mary Ryan as she approaches her 1 year anniversary as Head of Department of Educational Studies.

I am the Head of the Department of Educational Studies and I have been at Macquarie for almost a year now (where has that time gone?). Prior to this I was at QUT in Brisbane where I initially completed my PhD while teaching large undergraduate and postgraduate units in English curriculum and literacies (with two young children). Then I went on to coordinate the Primary Initial Teacher Education (ITE) Program with almost 1000 students, and then the HDR program in the Faculty of Education with over 200 students before taking on the role of ADR. My teaching and research are very much integrated and I am passionate about both. My research interests are in the areas of writing development, pedagogy and assessment, teacher and learner reflexivity, teacher preparation and professional learning and literacy pedagogy in schools and universities. I apply theories of reflexivity, socio-spatiality and social semiotics to the ‘texts’ produced in classrooms, schools, higher education institutions and workplace learning.

What has been your main focus since joining Macquarie as HoD of Department of Educational Studies?

My main focus since joining Macquarie has been on the Department as a cohesive, highly engaged and inspiring place to work. We now have a distributed leadership structure in place, and we have been writing our whole suite of new and exciting Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programs for external accreditation. We have also established research groups to consolidate our strengths and support our ECRs, we have strengthened our partnerships with schools, centres, State Government and community groups, and have been conducting learning and teaching projects in assessment, digital literacies and peer review. My staff have achieved all of this in 11 months – they are amazing!

What’s the biggest challenge you are facing or working on at the moment?

Implementing the numerous and ever-changing requirements for external accreditation of ITE programs while at the same time maintaining the integrity of our program logic and what we believe Macquarie ITE graduate should embody. My whole staff is involved in this endeavour – and it keeps me awake at night!

Where to next for your Department?

We have recruited a number of new staff and are looking forward to new ideas and collaborations within and beyond the Department. We have initiated an impact and evaluation program so we can track the impact we have on our students and the impact they have on the students they teach. We have also established an Academy for Continuing Professional Development with accreditation status through the NSW Education Standards Authority. We plan to grow this academy so we continue to inspire teachers and enable their ongoing learning.

What’s been your most memorable moment in teaching?

I think it is when students recognise an important concept, interrogate it, research it and then apply it in a way I had never thought to do! I know then that they are going to be independent, lifelong learners. It’s also pretty cool when I’m contacted by former students who tell me how much I have influenced their passion for and approach to teaching.

Who is your favourite music band? Why?

I like the Courteeners because I can’t help singing along (with their accents) and the Lumineers because they have intelligent lyrics and are great musicians.  I also like Vampire Weekend – any band that has ‘Oxford Comma’ as the name of a song…

Using VoiceThread in L&T: Upcoming webinars

If you haven’t heard of VoiceThread, check out our #edtech spotlight overview and find out more.

Screenshot of VoiceThread of an x-ray of a human hand
Example: X-ray image for students to label or discuss pathology

Forthcoming Webinars

Humanize Your Online Course with VT
Wednesday 4th October 2017 | 10am-11am
Register online

Using VT for Assessments
Wednesday 11th October 2017 | 10am-11am
Register online


Annotate with VoiceThread

Quick Overview

Watch the tutorial videos on the VoiceThread YouTube channel, including:

Recent Webinar Recordings

  • Basics 1 – upload, comment, share (49:54)
  • Basics 2 – groups and secure sharing (56:05)
  • Basics 3 – moderating comments, private and threaded replies and copying (43:41)
  • Advanced Skills (47:14)
Import to VoiceThread from a range of content libraries

How do I set it up?

At present, only faculty Learning Designers can create VoiceThread links in your iLearn unit.

Contact Alex, Bec or Bev:

More MQ Examples?

Check out the fruitful experiments and interactive applications by the Department of International Studies, Faculty of Arts:

(i) Visit the Faculty of Arts Toolbox iLearn unit

(ii) Click on the self-enrol button at the bottom of the list of convenors

(iii) Scroll down to Topic 12 ‘Communication and Collaboration’

(iv) Select the VoiceThread entitled ‘Copy of International Studies Presents – example uses from S1 2017

Rebecca’s Recommended Read: 7 smart ways to use technology in the classroom

This Recommended Read comes from  While written about a teacher’s experience with primary school students, Kayla Delzer‘s tips are just as relevant with higher ed students.

Delzer shares 7 smart ways to use technology in the classroom, all of the tips are great but #3 and #4 are my favourites (that’s a hook to make you read the article ).  Do  you have any tips of your own to share?

PS. Delzer’s Tedx talk Reimagining Classrooms: Teachers as Learners and Students as Leaders is inspirational too!


Live streaming roll out – Is it for you?

Psychology successfully pioneered live streaming of lectures for their large first year units, PSYC104 in Session 1 and PSYC105 in Session 2. The student experience was extremely positive.

Top 5 facts about the live stream pilot

How live streaming works

A set of rules has been developed for standards of practice for the roll-out of live streaming to other units:

  1. The minimum enrolment threshold for live streaming is 150 students;
  2.  The physical seat allocation for a 100 level unit lecture will be 50% of the total number enrolled (with a repeat lecture timetabled). The repeat lecture can be cancelled after census date if the attendance at the repeat lecture drops below 50% of capacity;
  3.  The physical seat allocation for 200 and above level units will be 40% of the of the total number of students enrolled (but this can be set per level if preferred);
  4.  There will be no repeat lectures for 200 level and above units with live streaming;
  5.   No additional on campus lectures will be timetabled even if enrolment numbers are greater than forecast (as additional students will live stream their lectures).

If you are interested in live streaming your lectures in 2018, please contact the Faculty Learning Designers via email to

Teacher of the week: Scott Barnes

Scott Barnes is a lecturer in the Department of Linguistics.

I am the Program Director of the Master of Speech and Language Pathology program in the Department of Linguistics. My research interests are, broadly, communication disorders and the organisation of interaction, and I specialise in ethnomethodology and conversation analysis. I commenced in my current position at Macquarie in the middle of 2013. Immediately prior, I was a postdoctoral fellow in the Discipline of Speech Pathology at the University of Sydney. I’m currently carrying out a research project on people who experience communication problems following a stroke affecting the right hemisphere of their brain.

What are your main teaching commitments?

I teach almost exclusively in the Master of Speech and Language Pathology program. My main teaching areas are acquired language disorders (conditions like aphasia, traumatic brain injury, and right hemisphere damage), related speech pathology interventions, and ways to measure language and communication in speech pathology practice.

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a university teacher?

One challenge of teaching in a professional, postgraduate program is that students can become very (understandably!) focused on the technical skills involved with being a speech pathologist. This can encourage them to engage in superficial learning, and to reproduce others’ practices without much thought about why they are (or aren’t) sensible. This might seem like a marginal problem, but it is an important one in the context of ensuring that people with communication and swallowing disabilities get the best care possible, and also for spurring progress and change in the profession itself. So, as a teacher in the Master of Speech and Language Pathology, I have to find ways of supporting students with developing their technical skills, while at the same time ensuring that they’re thinking critically about the principles, theories, and research findings that are (or aren’t) informing them.

What has helped you improve your teaching most and why?

My answer is quite boring, but here goes: reading, thinking, and practising. When I find myself unsatisfied, or frustrated with some aspect of my teaching, I try to set aside time to read and think. This helps me systematically review the conceptual or practical angle I’ve adopted. In addition, there are lots of practicalities involved with teaching that are difficult to anticipate, or completely understand, until you’ve actually lived through them. Two small, but I think important practical things that I’ve worked on incrementally are: 1) verbal explanations of complex concepts that are accessible, but don’t elide their complexity; 2) task instructions and scaffolding for in-class tutorial-type activities.

What’s been your most memorable moment in teaching?

Perhaps surprisingly, lots of my memorable moments in teaching have emerged from marking. It’s really satisfying to me when a student can take a learning experience I’ve designed, engage with it in a deep fashion, and then apply that knowledge rigorously in an assessment task. It’s even more satisfying when they use that knowledge to do something creative, that I hadn’t anticipated, or even disagree with. (I’m always pleased when I can elicit principled disagreement!). More superficially, a student once called me over in a lecture break to show me a Reddit post, saying “hey, you’re a nerd, you’ll like this.” Up until that point, I wasn’t aware that I was one, so it was a bit of hammer blow. (As an aside, a friend of mine once received an LET survey response on which the only (qualitative or quantitative) feedback was, “Karl is a cool nerd”. I think this is a low-key excellent bit of feedback).

Who is your favourite music band? Why?

I’ve always thought this is a cruel question. Over the last 10 years or so, I’ve enjoyed the collective recorded output of Deerhunter and its members (i.e., including Atlas Sound and Lotus Plaza). Their work is quiet varied, and I think Bradford Cox is an interesting person. I’ve also had a lot of fun seeing Royal Headache live with my friends.